Herbal Basics -Tips and Tricks
For more on Herbs go to http://Herbal-facts.com
Substituting - A general guideline when using fresh herbs in a recipe is to use 3 times as much as you would use of a dried herb. When substituting, you’ll often be more successful substituting fresh herbs for dried herbs, rather than the other way around. For example, think potato salad with fresh vs. dried parsley!
When to Pick or Purchase Herbs - Purchase herbs close to the time you plan to use them. When growing herbs in your own garden the ideal time for picking is in the morning after the dew has dried but before the sun gets hot. This helps ensure the best flavor and storage quality
Herb Preparation - Unlike dried herbs, fresh herbs are usually added toward the end in cooked dishes to preserve their flavor. Add the more delicate herbs — basil, chives, cilantro, dill leaves, parsley, marjoram and mint — a minute or two before the end of cooking or sprinkle them on the food before it’s served. The less delicate herbs, such as dill seeds, oregano, rosemary, tarragon and thyme, can be added about the last 20 minutes of cooking. Obviously, for some foods, such as breads, batters, etc., you’ll need to add herbs at the beginning of the cooking process.Fresh herbs can be added to refrigerated cold foods several hours before serving. Allow time (at least a couple of hours, if possible) for cold are frozen, they become limp, lose their color and are best used in cooked foods. The most conservative guidelines for how long herbs will maintain their quality frozen range from two to six months. Here are three possible ways to freeze herbs:
Freezing Herbs - Several books and articles on herbs recommend freezing as an easy way to preserve herbs.
Recommendations vary on the best way to freeze herbs, how long frozen herbs will maintain a satisfactory flavor and which herbs will freeze well. Be aware that when herbs
1) The easiest method and one recommended on the National Center for Home Food Preservation Web site www.uga.edu/nchfp/how/freeze/herbs.html states: "Wash, drain and pat dry with paper towels. Wrap a few sprigs or leaves in freezer wrap and place in a freezer bag. Seal and freeze. These can be chopped and used in cooked dishes. These usually are not suitable for garnish, as the frozen product becomes limp when it thaws."
2) Another method recommends washing herbs, cutting them into tiny pieces and then filling the sections of an ice cube tray about half full with herbs. Cover herbs with cold water and freeze until solid. Transfer frozen cubes to a freezer bag and squish out as much air as possible. Drop them into soups, stews and sauces as needed. Be aware herbs may stain plastic ice cube trays
.3) To save time chopping herbs into tiny pieces, you might try making a "slurry." Simply puree your washed herbs in a blender with a small amount of water. Pour into ice cube trays and freeze until solid. Transfer to a freezer bag and add to foods, as desired.
Regardless of how you freeze herbs, label them as to type (they tend to look the same frozen) and the date frozen. If you freeze quite a few herbs, it may be easier to find them in your freezer if you store the individual packages together in one large container.
Which method works best? Experiment for yourself with small amounts of herbs at the beginning of the season and sample your results a month or so later. Determine your personal preference before committing a lot of time (and freezer space!) to frozen herbs.
HOW TO DRY To dry mint (and other herbs), harvest long stems when the flowers first open. Do not remove the leaves. Rinse in cool water and tie the ends of the stems together in small bunches. Hang the bunches in a warm, dry place away from direct sunlight. Don't hang against a wall because air must circulate through the bunch. To keep dust off the herbs, hang them in an open paper bag. When the leaves are crackly and completely dry, take down the bunches, gently remove the leaves, keeping them whole, and store in an airtight container in a cool, dark cupboard.
Preparing Herbs for Cooking - For most recipes, unless otherwise directed, mince herbs into tiny pieces. Chop with a chef’s knife on a cutting board or snip with a kitchen scissors. To speed cutting with a scissors, cut herbs coarsely into a small bowl or cup and snip back and forth with your scissors. Some recipes may direct you to cut large leaves, such as basil, "chiffonnade-style" or into thin strips. An easy way to do this is to stack several leaves (about 3 to 5), roll into a tight roll, then cut into thin (1/16 to 1/8 inch) strips with a sharp knife.
While some recipes call for a sprig or sprigs of herbs, normally the part of the herb you harvest will be the
Cleaning Herbs - Wash herbs when you are ready to use them. Wash smaller amounts of herbs thoroughly under running water. Shake off moisture or spin dry in a salad spinner. Pat off any remaining moisture with clean paper towels.
If you’re washing a larger amount of herbs at one time, treat them as you would salad greens. Place in a clean sink or deep bowl filled with cold water and swish around. Lift from the water and transfer to another bowl so dirt and grit remain in the water. Pour out the water and repeat the washing process in clean water until dirt and grit are gone and the water is clear.Note: If you plan to harvest a large amount of herbs from a home garden, consider washing them down with a hose the day before to help remove any large particles of dirt or grit that might be on the leaves.
Annual herbs can be harvested down to about four inches tall and they still will regrow for use later in the season. For perennial herbs, don’t
STRENGTH OF HERBAL TEAS
On the subject of herbal teas, yes steeping the tea longer does release more chemical constituents, but that is not necessarily a desirable thing! Many herbs contain something called tannins. Tannins are the chemicals that make your mouth feel dry after you drink very strong black tea. Tannins were originally used to cure leather (hence the term "tanning leather"). Tannins will make some teas very bitter and undrinkable, if you steep the tea too long. For instance, if you steep chamomile more than 5 minutes, the tannins that are in the tea become more pronounced, making the tea very bitter and undrinkable. The same thing can happen with green tea- you may feel more energetic, but you may not like the taste of the tea! If you are drinking tea made mainly from aerial portions of plants (leaves, flowers, buds, stems), steep no more than 3-5 minutes for the best taste.
If you don't mind the bitterness, steep up to 8, but be aware that after 5 minutes, most of the general constituents have been extracted, leaving only the tannins.
If you are drinking teas made mainly from roots, barks, berries or seeds, you can actually steep the tea longer, but again, you will have to deal with tannins creeping in- unless that is what you are looking for, as in the case of blackberry root tea (for diarrhea). Also, don'
Planting An Herb Garden
Horticulturists recommend planting herbs after the last day of frost in the spring to avoid losing plants to a late freeze. If you’ve never planted herbs before, you may be more successful initially starting with transplants, rather than seeds.
When you’re selecting herbs, be sure they’re meant for culinary uses, not just as an ornamental herb. Some of the ornamental herbs may have a less desirable flavor because they’ve been bred for appearance rather than taste appeal.
There are three types of plants: annual, biennial or perennial. An annual completes its life cycle in one growing season and must be planted yearly. A biennial completes its life cycle in two growing seasons; biennials produce only foliage the first year and bloom the second year. Some people plant biennials, such as parsley, yearly for their foliage. A perennial lives for many growing seasons and comes back yearly.
Popular fresh garden herbs include basil, chives (common chives and garlic chives), cilantro, dill, mint and parsley. Herbs such as French tarragon (Artemesia dracunculus), oregano, rosemary, thyme (Thymus serpyllums is a common culinary thyme), sage and winter savory are satisfactory in both fresh and dried forms.
Note: Mint is a very aggressive plant that can quickly take over the herb garden. Plant it in a container at least 12 inches wide and deep (about a one- or two- gallon size container) without holes. Inexpensive plastic containers without holes are available at most nurseries or lawn and garden centers. Bury the container in the ground so an inch of the container is above ground level. This will contain the plant so it can’t creep out the top or the bottom and will prevent it from spreading throughout the garden. You may need to water mint more than other herbs that are planted normally and can send their roots farther into the ground.
Many herbs are suitable for container gardening as well as planting in a ground bed. Container gardening is an especially good option if you’re limited on space.
Incredible Edible Flowers
"Marigolds seasoned the venison, roses graced the stew,
and violets mingled with wild onion in the salad."
--Medieval feast description
Please do eat the daisies, and also feel free to chow down on the roses, pansies and violets. Perhaps you have heard of candied violets, but you may be pleasantly surprised to hear many other flowers are not only a lovely visual addition to your dinner table, but also a tasty one.
A Little History
The culinary use of flowers dates back thousands of years with the first recorded mention was in 140 B.C. Many different cultures have incorporated flowers into their traditional foods. Oriental dishes make use of daylily buds, the Romans used mallow, rose and violets, Italian and Hispanic cultures gave us stuffed squash blossoms, and Asian Indians use rose petals in many recipes. Did you know Chartreuse, a classic green liqueur developed in France in the seventeeth century, boasts carnation petals as one of its secret ingredients? And, dandelions were one of the bitter herbs referred to in the Old Testament of the Bible.
Colorful and Tasty
Yes, those flowers look beautiful as garnishes, but what do they taste like? Bean blossums have a sweet, beany flavor. Nasturtiums have a wonderfully peppery flavor similar to watercress and their pickled buds can be substituted for more expensive capers. Borage tastes like cucumber, and miniature pansies (Johny-Jump-Ups) have a mild wintergreen taste. Violets, roses and lavender lend a sweet flavor to salads or desserts. Bright yellow calendulas are an economic alternative to expensive saffron, though not quite as pungent. Others may have a spicy or peppermint flavor. When in doubt, taste!
Most herbal teas are infusions made by pouring boiling water over fresh or dried herb leaves or flowers for 5 to 10 minutes to release the herbs aromatic oils. The general rule is 1 teaspoon of dried herb or 3 teaspoons fresh crushed herb to 1 cup boiling water. Some herbs may require more or less herb for desired taste. For stronger taste it is better to add more herb than to steep longer as some herbs become bitter with long steeping. Most berries and roots and a few herbs need simmering to bring out their flavor (noted if needed)
Agrimony >-pleasant tea, generally infused with Licorice root and served at meals. Sweeten with honey.
Alfalfa leaf >-appetite stimulating, rich in vitamins and mineral, flavor improved by addition on Peppermint or other preferred flavor.
Basil >-subtle flavor and aroma. May also be used to add flavor and aroma to Oriental black tea.
Bergamot >-used by American Indians. A tea with a "wild taste".
Betony >-an excellent tea for daily use when Oriental teas must be avoided. The flavor somewhat resembles Oriental black tea. A bit of dried orange peel, or Clove, may be added.
Birch Bark >-this makes a tea with a flavor similar to wintergreen.
Blue Mountain Tea- makes a golden brew, and has a warm anise-like flavor and fragrance. Sweeten with brown sugar or honey. Serve hot.
Borage >-mild refreshing cucumber-like flavor; high in organic calcium and potassium; not recommended for extended daily use.
Boteka Tea-A few Boteka leaves used with a good quality black tea, adds a taste and flavor that is most excellent.
Burnet-cucumber-like flavor. Lemon and sugar may be added.
Cassina-pleasant tea whose caffeine content is mildly stimulating.
Catnip >-stimulates appetite if served cold before meals, aids digestion if served hot after meals, served hot makes a soothing nightcap.
Chamomile >-delicate flavor with fruity aroma, one of the most popular herb teas available. Chamomile tea may be made in several ways. Before dinner with ginger grated over the steeping brew; after dinner by adding Fennel, 1 part to 2 of Chamomile. Cold Chamomile tea often gives a sense of relief after a heavy meal. May be sweetened with honey, and a thin slice of lemon or orange may also be added.
Cinnamon >-fragrant and refreshing
Clover Blossom >-delicate flavor, must be simmered for a short time, good with peppermint or spearmint added.
Damiana >-fragrant golden tea, with a delicious aroma and agreeable slightly bitter taste.
Desert Tea-a good aroma and quite different flavor than other teas.
Dictamus (Gas plant)-strong lemony-like scent.
Elder Flower >-pleasant, good with addition of mint, helps induce sleep.
Fennel Seed >-an agreeable tea for children, and the aged, when taken warm and slightly sweetened.
Fenugreek >-smooth flavor, soothing
Fragrant Hyssop >-a sweet scented herb used for its particular flavor.
Galangal-to give bouquet to Oriental tea, or added to bland herb teas such as Alfalfa, Strawberry leaf, etc., to heighten the flavor, sweetly aromatic.
Ginger >-Used as a warming tea sweet pleasant flavor, sooths nerves, aids digestion.
Lovage >-flavor similar to celery thus more like broth than tea, may be flavored with season salt.
Marjoram >-serve hot or cold, mint leaves nice addition.
Mint >-for all mint teas steep only 5 minutes, aids digestion; most suitable for children
Mugwort >-should not be steeped long. sweeten with brown sugar.
Nettle >-warming tea on cold days. Dried leaves should be rubbed through a coarse sieve, added to tea. 3 parts Nettle to 1 part tea. The flavor is improved if this mixture is stored for some time before using.
Oswego tea-Used by American Indians(Monarda Didyma)
Parsley >-aromatic tea, rich in Vitamin C
Pennyroyal >-flavorful and fragrant tea with somewhat minty taste, CAUTION: should not be used during pregnancy. CAN BE TOXIC ANYTIME
Raspberry leaf >-use only dried leaves. Good tea for pregnant women.
Rose Hips >-high in Vitamin C, good for daily use, the dried finely chopped rose hips must be soaked 12 hours before use, simmer for 40 minutes, hibiscus flowers make a nice addition.
Rosemary >-fragrant tea. add a few Lavender flowers an a bit of lemon and honey.
Sage >-aids digestion. sweeten with maple syrup, brown sugar, or honey. Can be flavored with a squeeze of orange, lemon, or a dash of rum, pinch of mace, or cinnamon.
Sarsaparilla >-good combination: 1 part Sarsaparilla; 1 part Sassafras; 1/2 part Virginia Snake root. Prepare like tea but allow longer steeping time. Place saucer over cup to retain heat longer. Sweeten with brown sugar, maple syrup or honey.
Sassafras >-rose colored tea, spring tonic.
Slippery Elm >-Pour boiling water over cut Slippery Elm bark; when cold, strain, add lemon juice and sugar to taste. Slippery Elm tea can often be retained in the stomach, when other teas may not agree.
Spice Bush tea-(Laurus Benzoin) tea must be boiled 5-10 minutes to extract the essence. fragrant, spicy and pleasant. Sweeten with brown sugar or maple syrup.
Strawberry Leaf >-pleasant and fragrant tea, high in Vitamin C, good substitute for coffee or oriental tea (contains tannins as does oriental tea), use only dried leaves for tea.
Thyme >-aromatic tonic tea, some recommend it for hangovers.
Wintergreen >-tea is rose colored and has a naturally sweet flavor, leaves a lingering pleasant after-taste.
Woodruff >-delightful fragrant tea, can be steeped up to an hour. A pinch of herb adds a delicate flavor to Oriental black teas.
Yerba Mate >-contains caffeine, but in smaller amounts than coffee, good substitute for coffee or oriental tea.
For more on Herbs go to http://Herbal-facts.com